(Northern) Nigerian Lorry Arts and Race: A Question!
A friend of mine has just returned from a month’s visit to Nigeria, Keffi, Jos and Kano to be precise. Last night, we’ve spent hours going through her pictures (homesickness is not quite the right work but my sentimentality bordered on something similar) and one question kept puzzling us: We agree that Nigerian lorry arts are just amazingly beautiful. We love the aesthetics of it. But, why are so few of the men depicted in the tailboard paintings dark skinned. I understand that a number of the motifs originate in Italo-Western (especially the Django character), Hollywood action movies (Rambo) and Kung-Fu films. But how comes the characters have never been localised or ‘Africanised’ (chose whichever term you prefer)? An African/Nigerian character wrestling with a lion appears to make as much (or little, if you’re not a fan of this kind of movies) sense as a white Rambo character. Or not?
(Image: Ostfaficzuk, Stanislaw (1996): Geoecology of the Nigerian Part of the Lake Chad Basin. Katowice: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Slakiego. 21.)
This is interesting especially if you consider it against the background of somewhat similar debates about the illustrations on the covers of Hausa novels where, according to Prof. Abdallah (2006: 47), in 2005 ANA banned the depiction of Europeans and Indians. Of course, lorry artists and the road transport entrepreneurs that own the lorries do occupy a different position in northern society than the writers of Hausa novels (whatever that may mean and entail) – and so do their products. And, certainly, I’m far away from suggesting something ought to be done about the shade of skin of the tailboard paintings. I’m just being curious about which role the characters’ origin in foreign films play, or available colour palettes, or … or is this in the end just a misperception based upon the coincidences of times and places where we did our respective research?
Oh, and one last note, in reference back to a blog post about a year ago: my friend actually documented the, let’s follow Schmidt’s terminology, ‘Inkale’ motif on two lorries! I know I am turning into a terrible Nigerian art geek but there’s certainly material for an interesting article considering cultural flows across the region and different artistic media! As well as, mabye, in my question about shades of skin in northern Nigerian lorry arts.